Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who am I? (Nan Yar?) - Part I


Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s 130th birth anniversary was celebrated on January 1st 2010 (Punarvasu Star). His teachings are lucid but the inner content and meanings needs to explored for our entire life. Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching has benefited many. Kanchi Mahaperiyava Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati advised Mr. Paul Brunton to seek the guidance of Sri Ramana Maharshi when he came to India in search of the truth. The detailed narration of the miracles are available in the book “A Search in Secret India” written by Paul Brunton.

Bhagavan became popular in the Western World after the visits of Paul Brunton, David Godman, and Arthur Osborne. One can see the foreign visitors if you visit the Ramanashram at Tiruvannamalai. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi realized himself through self inquiry and not by reading any books. All his thoughts and teachings are later corroborated with many works including Adisankara’s Advaita Philosophy. The Chapter two of Srimad Bhagavad Gita also dwelves more on the subject of Atma. Thought of sharing Maharshi’s “Who Am I?” (Naan Yaar?) which will help the spiritual sadhaka to know more about themselves!.


“Who am I?” is the title given to a set of questions and answers bearing on Self-enquiry. The questions were put to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by one Sri. M. Sivaprakasam Pillai somewhere during the period 1902. Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai was a graduate in Philosophy was at the time employed in the Revenue Department of South Arcot Collectorate. During his visit to Tiruvannamalai in 1902 on official work he went to Virupaksha Cave on Arunachala Hill and met the Master there.

He sought from him spiritual guidance and solicited answers to questions relating to Self-enquiry. As Bhagavan was not talking then he answered the questions put to him by gestures and when there were not understood by writing. These were first published by Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai in 1923 along with a couple of poems composed by himself relating how Bhagavan's grace operated in his case by dispelling his doubts and by saving him from a crisis in life. ‘Who am I’ has been published several times subsequently. ‘Who am I’ is the first set of instructions in the Master’s own word. ‘Who am I’ clearly set forth that the direct path to liberation is ‘Self-enquiry’. The particular mode in which the enquiry is to be made is lucidly set forth in ‘Who am I’. Please read on…..

1. Who am I?


The gross body which is composed of the seven humours (Sthoola Deham) – I am not

The five senses viz., the sense of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell which apprehend their respective objects viz., sound, touch, colour, taste and odour (Jnanendriyam) – I am not

The five cognitive sense organs viz., the organs of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion and procreation which have as their respective functions speaking, moving, grasping, excreting and enjoying (Karmendriyam) – I am not

The five vital airs, Prana etc., which perform respectively the five functions of in-breathing etc. (Pancha Vayus), - I am not

Even the mind which thinks (Man or Manam) – I am not

The nescience too, which is endowed only with the residual impressions of objects and in which there are no objects and no functioning (Agnanam or Ignorance) – I am not


2. If I am none of these, then who am I?

After negating all of the above mentioned as “Not This” “Not This” that awareness or knowledge which alone remains – that I am.

3. What is the nature of awareness or knowledge?

The nature of that awareness or knowledge is “Sat – Chit – Ananda” i.e. Existence – Consciousness – Bliss

4. When will the realization of the Self be gained?

When the world which is what-is- seen has been removed, there will be realization of the Self which is the seer.


5. Will there not be realization of the Self even while the World is there (taken as real)?

There will not be.

6. Why?

The seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake. Just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real is removed.

7. When will the world which is the object seen be removed?

When the mind, which is the cause of all cognitions and of all actions, becomes quiescent, the world will disappear.

8. What is the nature of the mind?

What is called ‘mind’ is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep there are no thoughts and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream there are thoughts and there is a world also. Just as the spider emits the thread of the web out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears to be real, the Self does not appear and when the Self appears (Shines) the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self (as the residue). What is referred to as the Self is the Atman. The mind always exists only in dependence on something gross and it cannot stay alone. It is the mind that is called the subtle body or the soul (jiva).


9. What is the path of inquiry for understanding the nature of mind?

That which rises as ‘I’ in this body is the mind. If one inquires as to where in the body the thought ‘I’ rises first, one would discover that it rises in the heart. That is the place of the mind’s origin. Even if one think constantly ‘I’ ‘I’, one will be lead to that place. Of all the thoughts that arise in the mind, the ‘I’ thought is the first. It is only after the rise of this that the other thoughts arise. It is after the appearance of the first personal pronoun that the second and third personal pronouns appear, without the first personal pronoun there will not be the second and third.

10. How will the mind become quiescent?

By the inquiry ‘Who am I?”

The thought ‘who am I’ will destroy all other thoughts and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then there will arise “Self Realization”.



(To be continued…..)

Reference :


Who am I? (Nan Yar?) – The teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (Translated by Sri T.M.P. Mahadevan) - Published by Sri Ramana Ashramam, Tiruvannamalai.

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